Watching Washington, May 2018: Railroads, as do all for-profit undertakings, earn their crust by selling at a price-multiple above production costs. Otherwise, they become revenue inadequate, meaning they lose investors, cease renewing assets, hollow out service and fail.
Author: Frank N. Wilner
Were there any doubt that the Surface Transportation Board (STB) has been on siesta since the departure of former Chairman Dan Elliott in September, a House Rail Subcommittee oversight hearing April 17 confirmed the languor.
Senior Senate legislative aide Patrick J. Fuchs and commuter railroad attorney Michelle A. Schultz, both Republicans, appeared April 11 before the Senate Commerce Committee as a first crucial step toward Senate confirmation to become members of the Surface Transportation Board (STB), which administers remnants of what until 1980 was almost a century of pervasive railroad economic regulation.
Debates rage over the wisdom of steeper tariffs on U.S. imports and/or withdrawing from global trade pacts in hopes of protecting domestic industry and jobs. History teaches such actions pose economic and national security risks.
Clint Miller studied, recited and practiced railroad labor law with such determination, devotion and precision that his management adversaries often were converted to fans. Had cancer instead picked its fight with him in a courtroom, few would have expected his death last week at age 70.
An essential task of the National Mediation Board (NMB), which administers the Railway Labor Act (RLA), is to resolve grievances of union-represented railroad employees relating to contract interpretation and workplace discipline.
Ann Dawn Begeman was designated permanent chairman of the Surface Transportation Board (STB) March 19 by President Trump. She has been acting chairman since January 2017.
As ascendancy of jaw-jaw over war-war is making even a partial national rail work stoppage less probable, an agreement this week between the freight railroads and their second largest labor union has further decreased such concern.
“Riding the brand”—a code of conduct exemplifying unbendable trustworthiness, integrity and commitment—is an expression as old as the Wild West, yet as contemporary as Federal Railroad Administrator Ron Batory. Nowhere is this code more needed than at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), lacking permanent leadership since January 2015 and suffering discord and an organizational brain-drain even longer.
A Senate committee staffer and a lawyer for a commuter rail agency have been nominated to fill vacant seats at the Surface Transportation Board. Current Acting Chairman Ann Begeman is expected to be named permanent chairman.